Seafood New Zealand denounces catch report claiming overfishing
Seafood New Zealand has denounced a new report claiming that the country’s catch over the past 60 years is 2.7 times higher than actually reported.
The seafood industry trade group claims the report, Reconstruction of Marine Fisheries Catches for New Zealand (1950-2010), is part of an orchestrated political campaign.
The report, authored by Glenn Simmons of Auckland University’s Business School and headed by Daniel Pauly from the University of British Columbia, is part of an international “Sea Around Us” collaboration composed of 400 researchers, which sought to fill the gaps in official catch data.
“To maintain sustainable fisheries and seafood businesses themselves, you need to know how much fish is being caught,” Simmons said.
The authors claim that New Zealand has under-reported its catches to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) from 1950 through 2010. An extended estimate from the study claims 24.7 million tons of fish went unreported, compared to the 15.3 million tons reported.
However, the Simmons report is “a highly politicized document that has been embraced by environmental NGOs and the Labour and Green parties, in an attempt to embarrass the government and to weaken commercial fishing,” said Seafood New Zealand in a statement.
While the report is “potentially damaging to the industry’s reputation,” it will likely have no impact on catches “because the findings are so clearly wrong and have no credibility with the Ministry for Primary Industries or the Government, Seafood New Zealand Chief Executive Tim Pankhurst told SeafoodSource.
“The authors appear to be unaware of FAO’s requirements that Coastal States specifically exclude the reporting of discards and of catches from foreign-flagged vessels when reporting catch statistics to FAO. The report includes scaled up estimates of both of these,” Pankhurst said.
In fact, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) reports show that less than 7 percent of New Zealand’s deepwater catch is discarded.
“To base estimates on historical anecdotes, rather than on factual scientific records, does a great disservice to our internationally-recognized sustainably-managed fisheries,” Pankhurst said.
However, Pauly countered in an email to SeafoodSource, “We do know that FAO explicitly request that discards not be included in the ‘catch’ data sent to FAO, and it is sad that Mr. Pankhurst should think that we don’t know that. The point is that such omission is wrong, and ought to change. Similarly, the fish caught by anyone in the waters of any country should be reported by that country, whatever the flag of the fishing country. This is the only way the impact of fishing on the ecosystem of that country can be assessed.”
Still, Seafood New Zealand said the report ignores 30 years of New Zealand’s sustainable fisheries management under the Quota Management System (QMS).
“The strict documentation requirements on catches, the high levels of enforcement, and large penalties for infringements over the past 30 years, along with independent science to assess sustainable quota levels, provides evidence that the actual catches have been very close to the reported catches during this period,” Pankhurst said.
New Zealand’s fisheries management is recognized as one of the best with one of the highest compliance levels in the world, according to Pankhurst.
“The results from a fisheries governance study, presented at the 2016 Seafood Summit in Malta, ranked New Zealand as one of the world’s top five best-managed fisheries,” he said.
That study, which was performed by Ray Hilborn, who received both research funding and consultancy fees from Seafood New Zealand, according to Simmons, “chooses to neglect that, from 1979 to 2013, at least the foreign charter sector, caught about 50 percent of the TAC,” Simmons told SeafoodSource.